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Eagles realize importance of App game

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    Just how big is Georgia Southern’s next game?
    Saturday’s noon contest against defending national champion and top-ranked Appalachian State (6-1, 3-0) could very well define Georgia Southern’s (3-3, 2-1) season. An upset would put the Eagles in a familiar position — in contention for the Southern Conference title and a trip to the playoffs — while a loss would mean making definite plans to spend Thanksgiving weekend at home.
    “This could really turn our season around with a huge win in the Southern Conference,” senior linebacker Jason Earwood said. “We know they are No. 1 coming in, but it’s a rivalry game. When the ball is kicked off, everybody is going to be playing hard.”
    App State beat Wofford at home last weekend, 14-7, and sits atop the Southern Conference standings with Furman (5-2, 3-0). The Mountaineers surely remember their last visit to Statesboro on Oct. 16, 2004, when Georgia Southern slaughtered them, 54-7. App State coach Jerry Moore was so embarrassed by the lopsided loss, he told reporters his players “had turned into a bunch of sissies.”
    The Mountaineers returned the favor last year, dominating the Eagles in a 24-7 win in Boone, N.C. The all-time series between GSU and ASU is tied at 10-10-1.
    “They were a young team then, and a lot of those guys that played that game are going to be coming back for the second time,” senior receiver Darius Smiley said. “But we got beat up there last year, so that’s going to be a motivation factor for us also.”
    Georgia Southern will celebrate homecoming this weekend, simply adding to the hype of the highly anticipated matchup.
    “Me personally, I’m not trying to think of it as homecoming,” Smiley said. “I’m trying to approach it as if we win this game, we keep our season and our playoff hopes alive. If we can just get everybody to think like that — to push homecoming out of the way, (and think) this is App State, this is a big rivalry, (we need to) come in and play our best ballgame against the No. 1 team in the nation — we should be okay.         We’ve got a lot of motivation factors coming into this ballgame. To knock off the No. 1 team at home is going to be big.”
    Georgia Southern will need to limit its mistakes to beat the Mountaineers, who lead the league in total offense (413.7 yards per game) and total defense (252.7). The Eagles are second in the SoCon in total offense (386.7) and third in total defense (331.3). App State has only won once at Paulson Stadium, a 35-28 victory in 1996 – the only losing season in Georgia Southern football history.
    “We are capable of hanging with anybody, we just need to have a perfect game,” senior linebacker John Mohring said. “We can’t make mistakes. We can’t kill ourselves.     “It’d be great for everybody to pull off a win like this. We’ve worked really hard, and things haven’t always gone our way this season. It’d be huge for us to beat them. They are a good team, and we’re going to give it our best shot.”
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